UPDATE: Email to council member Gary Delong
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By Paul Eakins | The Press Telegram
LONG BEACH — After months of convoluted debates, emotional meetings and a controversial lottery process, city officials are on the cusp of issuing medical marijuana permits for 37 cultivation or dispensary sites.
Now, three Long Beach City Council members want to stop the permit process midstream and change the law to make it more restrictive.
Council members Gerrie Schipske, Gary DeLong and Patrick O’Donnell plan to take a new medical marijuana proposal to the council Nov. 9, Schipske confirmed to the Press-Telegram today. DeLong and O’Donnell couldn’t be immediately reached for comment today.
An attorney representing some of the medical marijuana collectives said “there’s no question” that such a move would lead to legal action.
Schipske said the purpose of revisiting the law is “to put back in the ordinance what should have been there from the beginning, which is a thousand-foot buffer from parks and libraries and childcare centers.”
The law that the council approved in March prohibits collectives from operating in residential areas and includes prohibited buffer zones around schools and each other — no collective may be within 1,000 feet of another one.
The ordinance also contains many other requirements, such as providing information on the collectives’ members to the city and taking security measures at the sites
Another piece of the law that Schipske, DeLong and O’Donnell want to change is a requirement that allows for marijuana to be grown at the collectives, she said. They want cultivation to be allowed only in industrial areas, not in retail zones, Schipske said.
The council had heatedly debated whether to restrict cultivation within Long Beach or allow marijuana to be brought in from outside. It was ultimately decided that collectives must either grow their product on site or at a separate cultivation location elsewhere in the city.
The law clearly requires — and allows — this, but Schipske said the last thing she had intended was to have agricultural operations established in retail areas such as shopping centers.
“No, it wasn’t clear in the ordinance,” the councilwoman said.
Another possible piece of the new proposal, though Schipske said it wasn’t as important to her, would limit the number of collectives to two in each of the nine council districts. It wasn’t yet clear today whether that would be part of the proposal.
Attorney Rick Brizendine, who said he has helped about 10 collectives with the city’s permit process, said that changing the ordinance would open the city up to legal action and financial liabilities.
“The city has the power to change the ordinance, but they have to suffer the consequences of using that power,” Brizendine said.
As the rumor spread this week that the city may change the law, Brizendine said he has received calls from five collectives that are interested in taking legal action.
“There’s no question,” Brizendine said. “They’re going to want to sue.”
He said that he supports the law as it now stands, even though some collectives and medical marijuana patients are already suing the city over it.
“I believe the ordinance is enforceable,” Brizendine said. “No one was a hundred percent happy with it, but everyone was willing to work with it.”
Many collective operators disagreed with the city’s requirement that they pay a $14,742 nonrefundable permit application fee before being put into a lottery that would determine which of the collectives that were too close together would be allowed to remain open.
The lottery itself last month was seen as a debacle by many collective operators. The city’s lottery machines didn’t work properly — the lottery balls wouldn’t fit through the chute that was to reveal the winning collectives — and City Clerk Larry Herrera ended up drawing the balls by hand out of a trash can.
Thirty-two collectives operating at 37 locations, which includes cultivation sites, passed the lottery stage. The city still must do building inspections, post public notices and hold hearings before the collectives receive their permits.
Brizendine said that Long Beach’s financial liabilities go beyond the permit fees for those collectives that would be forced to close if the council approves a new ordinance that has buffer zones around parks, childcare centers and libraries. Many collectives have signed leases and have invested money in their buildings to meet the law’s current requirements, Brizendine said.
Schipske said the permit fee at least should be refundable in some cases.
“I would say with these changes, if someone who has paid this fee can’t qualify, we should give the money back to them,” Schipske said.
If part of the fees were given back, it could open up Long Beach to a whole new problem. The $777,000 in fees that the city collected was needed to help balance out the budget for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.
The Press-Telegram will be updating this story later today as details emerge.
Editor’s note – October 27, 2010: I happen to live in the Third District of Long Beach. Gary Delong, one of the council people listed in this article in my council person. After posting this article today I sent Gary DeLong the following email (I use crossed-out letters to show where I’ve corrected typing mistakes):
Date and Time: October 27, 2010 – 5:47pm
Subject: Foolish Endeavors in Long Beach…
Dear Gary DeLong:
As a voter in the third district of Long Beach I would like to voice my displeasure at your participation in the effort to change the recently enacted Medical Marijuana ordinance. I do not understand to the wisdom in this move.
The Press Telegram: https://www.presstelegram.com/breakingnews/ci_16448615#
Many people have invested time and money based on the law passed by the city. Not only is this effort tone-deaf in relation to the medical marijuana community and the financial realities of the non-profit collectives who are attempting to follow the law, but, most likely, will end up with the city wasting precious tax dollars on legal settlements.
I would like a response from you concerning this issue, so I can share it with our readers.
Until later, best of health,
Editor | The Daily Dose from MedicalMarijuana411.com
We’ll post the council person’s response when we receive it…
Call or Email your Long Beach council member and tell them how you feel!